Building Social Capital and Political Trust: Consolidating Democracy in Botswana

This paper seeks to address the extent of democratic consolidation in Botswana. It departs from the basic premise that democracy is a contested enterprise that is always under construction and is socially embedded in a given cultural setting. In measuring the extent of democratic consolidation it applies the social capital theory to establish how horizontal social networks build norms of reciprocity, which give rise to social capital and political trust. It draws heavily on Putnam’s thesis that networks of interpersonal trust lead to civic participation and engagement, and consequently to political trust.
However, what emerges from Botswana’s democratic politics is that Batswana do not have a participative culture, they do not engage in voluntary civic associations and there is a general lack of trust in political institutions and politicians. The paper endeavours to explain this non-participative culture. The traditional system of government – bogosi (chieftainship) – was hereditary, so people were not socialised into electing a leader every five years or so. Yet the paper also shows that the consultative structure of the kgotla (the village assembly) system, although it discriminated against women and youth, has consensual elements built into it. The paper concludes by challenging the thesis that traditionalism must give way to modernity if democracy is to be consolidated. Instead it suggests that the strength of Botswana’s democracy lies in a judicious and careful blending of the Westminster parliamentary system with the traditional rule of bogosi. If democracy is facing a threat it is not from traditional institutions but from globalisation, which has disempowered nation-states and given inordinate powers to markets.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: Bakgalagadi, Basarwa, ethnic group, kgosi ke kgosi ka batho, merafe (tribes), nation-state, social psychology